Restaurant cooking led to food writing. Food writing led to teaching. One day at a book-related event, I met the program directors of the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan. They asked me if I'd consider teaching. It was one of the best career decisions of my life. Although my primary teaching site is The Natural Gourmet Institute in midtown Manhattan, I also teach at various other locations, including the JCC on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and the Sephardic Community Center in Brooklyn.
The Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI) Chef's Training Program features a health-supportive curriculum informed by the principles of its founder, Dr. Annemarie Colbin. It is a solid culinary education, including essential knife skills (basic cuts, as well as fish fillet and basic butchering), cookery competencies (such as poach, roast, saute, grill, steam, fry, braise/stew, etc.), baking and pastry, and specialized international cuisine. The curriculum addresses food's role in health promotion and support, disease mitigation and management, food in-tolerances and allergies, and specialized diets.
The health supportive aspect of NGI broadened my cooking repertoire and improved my own personal fitness. The school also has an environmental sustainability ethic that exists in no other cooking school. A composting program ensures that kitchen waste goes back to the earth, from food scraps to brown paper, parchment, and everything possible. Effort is made to reduce trash, utilize trimmings for stocks, eliminate disposables, and generally set an example for the industry about how to change our food system for the
better. That includes using mostly organic materials, sourcing from local producers, and buying humanely raised and handled meat and dairy. The school's fish choices are based on sustainability guidelines from ocean stewardship organizations.
Beyond the chef's training program, I teach ethnic cuisines (including Thai Street Foods, Korean, Chinese New Year Feasts, Italian Contorni, and Spanish Tapas...) and culinary comptencies to the general public. In the weeks before Valentine's Day, I run a Chocolate Euphoria class featuring no less than seven chocolate indulgences. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike follow my classes in Savory Vegetarian Pancakes, which include crisp mushroom risotto cakes, lentil-scallion hors d'oeuvres, wild rice pancakes with cumin sour cream, and sweet-savory corn and polenta pancakes with honey-chili-orange butter. Other classes I periodically run include:
• Pizza and Focaccia Party
• Ice Creams, Sorbets, and other Frozen Confections
• Sustainable Seafood Feast
• Indian Breads Primer
• Make-Ahead Cooking for Busy Weekdays
• Handmade Noodles and Pasta
• Seitan Workshop
Look forward to seeing you at one of these classes in the future.